The effect of an imagery training intervention on self-confidence and anxiety in acrobatic gymnasts

Gibson, Ann-Marie and Marshall, Elizabeth (2016) The effect of an imagery training intervention on self-confidence and anxiety in acrobatic gymnasts. In: Sports Medicine Australia Conference, 2016-10-12 - 2016-10-15.

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Background: Acrobatics is a discipline within gymnastics which lacks empirical research in relation to psychological skills training. Due to the different mixes of gender, age and number of gymnasts working in each partnership, the psychological pressure for acrobats could be higher than gymnasts who train and compete on their own. Research conducted in other aesthetic sports have proposed imagery training for elevating self-confidence and controlling anxiety levels yet there is no evidence on the use of imagery training in acrobatic gymnastics. The aim of this study was to examine the effect of an imagery intervention on acrobatic performance, self-confidence and anxiety in acrobatic gymnastics.Methods: Twenty-one acrobatic gymnasts (mean age=13.7 years) completed a demographic questionnaire, the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 and the Sport Imagery Questionnaire prior to performing their competitive routine for baseline measures. Within their competitive partnerships, they were randomly-assigned to the control group (n=8) who continued with their physical training and the imagery training group(n=11) who completed 2 imagery scripts a week for 4 weeks. The same measures were taken post intervention.Results: Repeated measures ANOVAs were used to examine changes in acrobatic performance, levels of self-confidence and anxiety. The imagery intervention significantly increased acrobat’s self-confidence compared to the control (F₁ˏ₁₇= 14.18, p= .002), however; imagery did not significantly reduce cognitive anxiety (F₁ˏ₁₇= 1.96, p> .05, η²= .10) or somatic anxiety (F₁ˏ₁₇= .92, p> .05, η²= .35). The in-between group comparisons revealed no significant changes in acrobatic performance. There was a significant main effect of time in the intervention group for the targeted imagery functions- motivational general arousal imagery (F₁ˏ₁₇= 7.16, p= .02, η²= .30) and motivational general-mastery imagery (F₁ˏ₁₇=5.16, p= .04, η²= .23).Discussion: The current study was the first to explore the effects of an imagery training intervention in acrobatic gymnasts which sets a foundation for future research. Acrobatic gymnasts should adopt a 4 week imagery training programme in practice and competition in order to enhance their self-confidence, but not to reduce anxiety or improve performance scores. Further research is required to identify the effect of an increased duration imagery intervention in acrobatic gymnastics which follow a more intense and consistent programme.